Reading Old Favourites

As anyone who knows me knows, I have spent acres of my life reading books.  I’m not especially well read – I like to discover my kind of a great author and read all their books, and I’m fond of re-reading old favourites – but I don’t mind that.  Over the course of a decade or so, several re-reads of a book is no punishment, as each time, I collect something new from the experience as my perspective alters.

Having come a roundabout route to writing, I suspect that re-reading old favourites has also taught me a few ideas about structure, a bit more about how to plot and has reinforced grammar lessons.  If I ever need to, that is how I justify my tendency to circle the old favourites.  (I have bought the full set of James Herriot’s  books at least seven times and I used to read Tintin and Snoopy constantly.)

But on a broader stage, reading and writing has taught me a great deal about ordinary empathy.

Assuming our characters are composites of real people, with a bit of sparkle and magic thrown in, we certainly get up close and personal with them, wouldn’t you say?  I’m reluctant to offer easy answers off pat about life, and having to live with characters for years, I have had to come to terms with their ambivalence, their flaws, and the very normal tendency of people to muck up and carry on living.  Our books of fiction may be make-believe and contain the usual caveat ‘All characters and events in this book are entirely fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental but we still learn a lot from them.

It’s like having the option to experiment with different life choices, but with few of the consequences.

What if our character has a drug habit or an addiction to playing card games?  What will happen to them?  As authors, we can watch our characters, and actually, in that process, we learn what we would do.  It’s nice to have that freedom to experiment.

Thanks for reading.

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